County inviting input from public

Big Lakes County welcomes growth with new development, residents, business and employment and construction. Proposed new plans are designed to help create growth.

Residents will have chance to respond to draft plans at a public hearing April 12

Richard Froese
South Peace News
Big Lakes County’s recently-drafted municipal development plan and land-use bylaws will go to public hearing next month.
At its regular meeting March 1, council gave first reading to the bylaws. The public will now get its chance to provide input at a public hearing April 12 at 1:15 p.m.
“It clarifies some of the land uses and makes it simpler and easier for developers and people who want to develop,” Reeve Ken Matthews says.
The bylaws have been rewritten, and changes made after extensive consultation.
“We had information meetings in communities over the last two years,” says Pat Olansky, director of planning and development.
Residents will be invited to comment at the public hearing, which will be the only item on the agenda that afternoon, CAO Roy Brideau says.

Three new land-use districts were created in the draft bylaw.
1. Communal recreation allows for a range of development that typically locates adjacent to prominent natural features, including overnight accommodation for guests, and wide variety or recreational opportunities.
2. Highway commercial allows for development to accommodate the traveling public along major roadways that does not conflict with highway safety or other land uses.
3. Rural industrial provides for larger-scale intensive industrial development best suited for areas outside hamlets and urban settings.

Commercial industrial district has been deleted.
Airport vicinity district has been deleted and replaced by airport overlay, which requires council approval, as a result of a change in regulations by the provincial government.

Several new uses have been added to the land-use bylaw.
– Tourist home is a dwelling unit operated as a temporary place to stay and includes all vacation rentals of a dwelling unit.
– Medical marijuana facility has been added, allowed in the rural industrial district as a discretionary use for the purposes to propagate, process, store or distribute marijuana for the medical purposes.
Facilities are strictly regulated by Health Canada.

Alternative energy and tourism are key drivers suggested in the draft plan to help sustain the county’s economy in the future.
“The county’s natural environment provides many opportunities for outdoor tourism activities,” the plan states.
An analysis of tourism trends in the Big Lakes County region indicates several opportunities for potential growth in this sector.
For more information or to obtain a copy of the draft bylaws, please phone the county office at [780] 523-5595 or visit the Website at mdbiglakes.ca.
Objectives to sustain county

Objectives and policy have been set in the Big Lakes County draft municipal development plan to sustain the county in various sectors.

Agriculture
– Support the long-term viability of the agricultural industry in the county.
– Minimize the loss and fragmentation of prime agricultural lands.
– Responsibly guide development of non-agricultural uses within agricultural areas to reduce conflicts.

Parks, Trails and Recreation
– Maximize county recreation opportunities and promote economic opportunities related to tourism growth.
– Increase public access to Lesser Slave Lake.
– Accommodate diverse recreational needs of the county.
– Encourage partnerships, collaboration to improve operations, maintenance.

Housing
– Regulate and direct development of new residential subdivisions to areas that accommodate municipal servicing.
– Provide a variety of residential forms and types to meet the needs of the county’s population.

Commercial
– Facilitate commercial growth that supports both local,regional markets.
– Encourage commercial development in hamlets.
– Support the development of highway commercial nodes.

Industrial
– Reduce conflict of industrial land use with non-industrial.
– Support a variety of industrial uses.
– Accommodate and encourage industrial uses that support existing industry.

Hamlets
– Support hamlets as the preferred location for residential growth in the county, including affordable and seniors’ housing.
– Encourage economic vitality and social well-being within hamlets.

Economic Development and Tourism
– Broaden the range of commerce and trade opportunities.
– Strengthen employment opportunities and attract new investment.
– Facilitate growth and management of tourism.

Natural Environment
– Identify and protect environmentally sensitive areas.
– Promote environmental stewardship.
– Mitigate the risks of hazard lands on development.

Transportation and Infrastructure
– Maintain and expand transportation infrastructure.
– Manage development nears rail and airports.
– Encourage co-ordination and collaboration between jurisdictions and private sector to facilitate safe and efficient connectivity and movement of goods and people.
5 principles to direct future growth

Five guiding principles will help direct future growth in Big Lakes County:

1. Fiscal Sustainability
The county supports fiscally responsible development where the cost of building and managing community infrastructure and public services is affordable and not burdensome on future county residents.
2. Economic Development
The county supports new development and tourism concepts that are compatible with other county developments and logical for future sustainable development.
3. Environmental Sustainability
The county recognizes the importance of its natural environment to provide a high quality of life for its residents, its potential for tourism development and supports environmentally responsible development.
4. Community Fiber
The county recognizes the moral and historical value and promotes a continued community spirit through collaboration and understanding between its regional neighbours and differing land uses.
5. Land Use
The county will continue to maintain a degree of certainty in terms of its development and future land-use planning.

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